At least five people have died as Tropical Storm Florence slowly crept westward over the Carolinas Saturday, dumping massive amounts of water on the region. Florence "will produce catastrophic flooding over parts of North and SC for some time", NOAA official Steve Goldstein said Saturday morning.
"The fact is this storm is deadly and we know we are days away from an ending", Cooper said.
One of the towns worst affected is New Bern, which sits between the Neuse and Trent rivers in North Carolina.
As of 5 a.m., Florence was 25 miles (55 kilometers) east of Wilmington, North Carolina.
It tore roofs and facades off buildings and toppled trees.
By midday, Florence had already claimed its first lives, when a tree crashed onto a home in Wilmington, North Carolina, killing a mother and her infant daughter.
A 77-year-old man was apparently knocked down by the wind and died after going out to check on his hunting dogs, Lenoir County authorities said.
Storm surges - the bulge of ocean water pushed ashore by the hurricane - were as high as 10 feet (3 meters).
Shaken after seeing waves crashing on the Neuse River just outside his house in New Bern, restaurant owner and hurricane veteran Tom Ballance wished he had evacuated.
The Miami-based center says the center of the eye moved ashore with top sustained winds of 90 miles per hour, making Florence a Category 1 hurricane in terms of wind intensity. It came ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.
Emergency workers went door to door urging people to flee Florence's rising floodwaters Saturday and rescuers used inflatable boats to pluck others from homes already submerged as the storm's epic deluge swelled rivers and creeks across the Carolinas.
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Flash flood are expected to his the south-east coast as the storm moves across land. But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind.
In North Carolina, the city of New Bern was particularly hard hit.
Florence's forward movement during the day slowed to a near-standstill - sometimes it was going no faster than a human can walk - and that enabled it to pile on the rain.
In a subsequent settlement with federal regulators, Duke agreed to plead guilty to nine Clean Water Act violations and pay $102 million in fines and restitution for illegally discharging pollution from coal-ash dumps at five North Carolina power plants.
Two fins were spotted in the high water in Wilmington.
At one point, the 350-mile-wide but slow-moving storm packed winds so fierce that "CBS Evening News" anchor Jeff Glor almost lost contact with CBS News' New York studio during the morning broadcast.
The National Hurricane Center said Florence will eventually break up over the southern Appalachians and make a right hook to the northeast, its rainy remnants moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England by the middle of next week.
The Wilmington region could see "storm totals between 30 and 40 inches along the North Carolina coastal areas south of Cape Hatteras". That's enough water to fill the Chesapeake Bay or to cover the state of Texas in 4 inches.
Cooper warned: "Don't drive through water, no matter how confident you feel or how much you want to get out of the house".
By tomorrow afternoon, the center of Florence is expected to be across western SC. Heavy rains will continue to fall in the Carolinas and heavier rains are expected to spread into western parts of North Carolina, in addition to some parts of eastern Tennessee and eastern Georgia, Doll said.
"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU", the city tweeted around 2 a.m. Friday. Seventy people had to be pulled from a collapsing hotel at the height of the storm, and many more who defied evacuation orders were hoping to be rescued. "We have two boats and all our worldly possessions", said Susan Patchkofsky, who refused her family's pleas to evacuate and stayed at Emerald Isle with her husband.